100 books like The Last Mughal

By William Dalrymple,

Here are 100 books that The Last Mughal fans have personally recommended if you like The Last Mughal. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945

Michael Schuman Author Of Superpower Interrupted: The Chinese History of the World

From my list on Asian history.

Why am I passionate about this?

Michael Schuman is the author of three history books on Asia, most recently Superpower Interrupted: The Chinese History of the World, released in 2020. He has spent the past quarter-century as a journalist in the region. Formerly a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and Time magazine, he is currently a contributor to The Atlantic and a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion.

Michael's book list on Asian history

Michael Schuman Why did Michael love this book?

The masterful Toland weaves a narrative of jaw-dropping detail, drama and complexity that tells the grand and harrowing story of the Pacific War between the United States and Japan from the perspective of the Japanese. The tale takes the reader from Tokyo cabinet meetings to the deck of warships to the frontline of critical battles, to share the experiences of everyone from national leaders to top generals to ordinary soldiers. It’s one of those books that’s so good it leaves you wondering how it was even written.

By John Toland,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Rising Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“[The Rising Sun] is quite possibly the most readable, yet informative account of the Pacific war.”—Chicago Sun-Times

This Pulitzer Prize–winning history of World War II chronicles the dramatic rise and fall of the Japanese empire, from the invasion of Manchuria and China to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Told from the Japanese perspective, The Rising Sun is, in the author’s words, “a factual saga of people caught up in the flood of the most overwhelming war of mankind, told as it happened—muddled, ennobling, disgraceful, frustrating, full of paradox.”

In weaving together the historical facts and human drama leading…


Book cover of The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia

Amelia Dalton Author Of Pages from My Passport

From my list on the lives of those who pushed the boundaries.

Why am I passionate about this?

I ‘fell’ into being at sea by chance, through my father’s insistence I join him on a Scottish fishing boat for a week. I discovered I adored exploring unknown islands and lonely beaches, discovering wildlife and resilient small communities. In the 1990’s a female working amongst fishermen and commercial shipping was unknown, it was a wholly male, chauvinistic world. Using these skills I found a job being paid to explore – a dream job, pioneering but frequently lonely and dangerous. It resulted in my expanding the range and world of small expedition ships into areas with no infrastructure, unexplored and uncharted, lonely, empty coasts from the Arctic to Singapore. 

Amelia's book list on the lives of those who pushed the boundaries

Amelia Dalton Why did Amelia love this book?

This classic brings the secret world of spies and the struggle between countries for control of this vital corridor in the High Atlas within our reach. 

Disguised as holy men or traders, they risked their all for information: many lost their lives in the process. Illustrating the strategic importance and difficulties of such a mountainous and complicated area, Hopkirk’s book is not only vivid and dramatic, it is still relevant to this turbulent area today. 

By Peter Hopkirk,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Great Game as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE GREATGAME: THE EPIC STORY BEHIND TODAY'S HEADLINES

Peter Hopkirk's spellbinding account of the great imperial struggle for supremacy in Central Asoa has been hailed as essential reading with that era's legacy playing itself out today.

The Great Game between Victorian Britain and Tsarist Russia was fought across desolate terrain from the Caucasus to China, over the lonely passes of the Parmirs and Karakorams, in the blazing Kerman and Helmund deserts, and through the caravan towns of the old Silk Road-both powers scrambling to control access to the riches of India and the East. When play first began, the frontiers…


Book cover of Nathaniel's Nutmeg: Or, the True and Incredible Adventures of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History

Eleanor Ford Author Of The Nutmeg Trail: Recipes and Stories Along the Ancient Spice Routes

From my list on to spice up your shelves.

Why am I passionate about this?

In my writing, food is a means to explore culture and understand the world. I’ve been described as a ‘culinary detective’. I collect and create eclectic, evocative recipes from around the globe so I can travel from my kitchen when I'm back home in London. The Nutmeg Trail follows my multi-award-winning books, Fire Islands and Samarkand.

Eleanor's book list on to spice up your shelves

Eleanor Ford Why did Eleanor love this book?

Delving into the bloodiest and most tragic period of spice’s past, Milton’s novel reveals the extraordinary link between nutmeg and colonisation. It was the seed from which the British Empire grew. If fiction is your preferred way to explore history – and what a history spice has! – then this is the book for you.

By Giles Milton,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Nathaniel's Nutmeg as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A true tale of high adventure in the South Seas.

The tiny island of Run is an insignificant speck in the Indonesian archipelago. Just two miles long and half a mile wide, it is remote, tranquil, and, these days, largely ignored.

Yet 370 years ago, Run's harvest of nutmeg (a pound of which yielded a 3,200 percent profit by the time it arrived in England) turned it into the most lucrative of the Spice Islands, precipitating a battle between the all-powerful Dutch East India Company and the British Crown. The outcome of the fighting was one of the most spectacular…


Book cover of Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire

Eran Pichersky Author Of Plants and Human Conflict

From my list on how plants have had a dramatic influence on human history.

Why am I passionate about this?

After serving in the military for several years, I pursued a scientific career as a plant biologist. It was during my military service in a unit that spent most of our time in the wilderness that I discovered plants, and particularly their smells. One cannot help it–if you step or crawl on a plant, you will smell it. As a military history buff, I also learned that many wars were fought over plants, and so I decided to write a book that combines the two–explaining what these plants do, why they are so important to people, and, therefore, how plants basically drive human behavior, often to violence. 

Eran's book list on how plants have had a dramatic influence on human history

Eran Pichersky Why did Eran love this book?

This book actually talks only a little about plants.

But it shows what people would do–in this case, the Portuguese–to get their hands on some important plants–spices in this case. They sailed from Europe to India around Africa for several months and fought everyone on the way to prevent them from obtaining the same plants. Exciting stuff—but also a bit dispiriting about the human species.

By Roger Crowley,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Conquerors as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As remarkable as Columbus and the conquistador expeditions, the history of Portuguese exploration is now almost forgotten. But Portugal's navigators cracked the code of the Atlantic winds, launched the expedition of Vasco da Gama to India and beat the Spanish to the spice kingdoms of the East - then set about creating the first long-range maritime empire. In an astonishing blitz of thirty years, a handful of visionary and utterly ruthless empire builders, with few resources but breathtaking ambition, attempted to seize the Indian Ocean, destroy Islam and take control of world trade.

Told with Roger Crowley's customary skill and…


Book cover of Architecture of Mughal India

Giles Tillotson Author Of Taj Mahal

From my list on the Taj Mahal.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an art historian and have been engaged with India for over 40 years. Among other topics, I write about the Rajput courts in Rajasthan – especially Jaipur and Jodhpur – and about the Mughal cities of Delhi and Agra. I taught courses on these subjects at the University of London (at SOAS) in the 1990s. Since 2004 I have been living in India, where I work with museum trusts and with travel companies. Before the pandemic, I lectured regularly to tour groups visiting sites like the Taj Mahal, my aim being to bring the insights provided by expert research to a wider audience. 

Giles' book list on the Taj Mahal

Giles Tillotson Why did Giles love this book?

This is a survey of all Mughal architecture, in which only a few pages are devoted to the Taj Mahal directly, but for anyone who wants to understand the Taj not as something unique and inexplicable, but as a logical part of a longer tradition of design, this book is essential reading. While there are other surveys of Mughal architecture on offer, a major strength of this one is the author’s inclusion of many minor and provincial buildings that provide a wider context for the famous stand-out masterpieces like the Taj. 

By Catherine B. Asher,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Architecture of Mughal India as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Architecture of Mughal India Catherine Asher presents the first comprehensive study of Mughal architectural achievements. The work is lavishly illustrated and will be widely read by students and specialists of South Asian history and architecture as well as by anyone interested in the magnificent buildings of the Mughal empire.


Book cover of Romance of the Taj Mahal

Giles Tillotson Author Of Taj Mahal

From my list on the Taj Mahal.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an art historian and have been engaged with India for over 40 years. Among other topics, I write about the Rajput courts in Rajasthan – especially Jaipur and Jodhpur – and about the Mughal cities of Delhi and Agra. I taught courses on these subjects at the University of London (at SOAS) in the 1990s. Since 2004 I have been living in India, where I work with museum trusts and with travel companies. Before the pandemic, I lectured regularly to tour groups visiting sites like the Taj Mahal, my aim being to bring the insights provided by expert research to a wider audience. 

Giles' book list on the Taj Mahal

Giles Tillotson Why did Giles love this book?

Published to coincide with an exhibition held at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art back in 1989, this book still offers one of the best introductions to the cultural world of the Taj Mahal. Written by the curators at LACMA, the various chapters place the design of the tomb in the wider context of the decorative arts of Mughal India and show how it has also inspired later artists around the world. 

By Pratapaditya Pal, Janice Leoshko, Joseph M. Dye III , Stephen Markel

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Romance of the Taj Mahal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Looks at the history of the Taj Mahal, explores other aspects of Shah Jahan's court, and discusses the artistry of the period


Book cover of The Twentieth Wife

Kaia Alexander Author Of Written in the Ashes

From my list on badass adventurous women seeking love and belonging.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a queer/bi girl labeled as a tomboy from early on, I ached for a sense of belonging in my life that I only found in books. The adventurous women and girls that I looked for in the pages of books that were like friends to me spanned from Anne of Green Gables to Harriet the Spy. As I got older, I realized that important and awesome adventurous women had been left out of my history books, and only now are we starting to find out who they were, and how many women like myself were erased, and are now being redeemed through these wonderful stories.

Kaia's book list on badass adventurous women seeking love and belonging

Kaia Alexander Why did Kaia love this book?

Nur Jahan was one of the great queens of India, but I had never learned about her even in my studies at university.

I felt absolutely transported into her life, ambitions, and loves through this riveting novel that is so poetic you’ll want to read it in your bath with the door locked and a candle lit. This book feels like a window into the life of a woman you wish was your mother, your sister, your best friend.

It’s the first of the trilogy, and a magnificent journey into ancient India and the history of the Taj Mahal.

By Indu Sundaresan,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Twentieth Wife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An enchanting seventeenth-century epic of grand passion and adventure, this debut novel tells the captivating story of one of India's most legendary and controversial empresses -- a woman whose brilliance and determination trumped myriad obstacles, and whose love shaped the course of the Mughal empire.
She came into the world in the year 1577, to the howling accompaniment of a ferocious winter storm. As the daughter of starving refugees fleeing violent persecution in Persia, her fateful birth in a roadside tent sparked a miraculous reversal of family fortune, culminating in her father's introduction to the court of Emperor Akbar. She…


Book cover of The Moonlight Garden: New Discoveries at the Taj Mahal

Giles Tillotson Author Of Taj Mahal

From my list on the Taj Mahal.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an art historian and have been engaged with India for over 40 years. Among other topics, I write about the Rajput courts in Rajasthan – especially Jaipur and Jodhpur – and about the Mughal cities of Delhi and Agra. I taught courses on these subjects at the University of London (at SOAS) in the 1990s. Since 2004 I have been living in India, where I work with museum trusts and with travel companies. Before the pandemic, I lectured regularly to tour groups visiting sites like the Taj Mahal, my aim being to bring the insights provided by expert research to a wider audience. 

Giles' book list on the Taj Mahal

Giles Tillotson Why did Giles love this book?

This slim but well illustrated book gives an account of archaeological excavations that the author and others carried out in the mid-1990s. They unearthed the large but previously lost garden called the Mehtab Bagh on the far bank of the River Yamuna, facing the Taj Mahal. In so doing they debunked the long-standing myth about Shah Jahan’s plans to build a black replica Taj on that spot and showed instead what the real original garden scheme was like. Fascinatingly told, the story fully lives up to the claim to reveal ‘new discoveries’. 

By Elizabeth B. Moynihan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Moonlight Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For 350 years, the Taj Mahal in Agra has reigned luminous and splendid as perhaps the most admired monument in the world. Visitors who gazed across the Yamuna River from the Taj pavilions have viewed what appears to be little more than farmers' fields and barren ground. But historical references as well as paintings from the time of Shahjahan (r. 1628-58) reveal that it was once densely covered by rectangular walled enclosures and lush vegetation. The Mughal emperor Babur built gardens here as a way of evoking the characteristic delights of the homeland he had abandoned when he moved from…


Book cover of Courting India: Seventeenth-Century England, Mughal India, and the Origins of Empire

Susan Doran Author Of From Tudor to Stuart: The Regime Change from Elizabeth I to James I

From my list on the reigns of James VI of Scotland and I of England.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Professor of early-modern British History at the University of Oxford and a Senior Research Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford, who was a specialist in the Tudor period, especially the life and reign of Elizabeth I. However, while doing research over the past six years, I became excited by the politics, religion, and culture of the Jacobean period. James I’s reign had been a topic I taught in a week to undergraduates, but I realised that I didn’t do justice to this rich and important period. Not only is it fascinating in its own right, but James’s reign had a huge impact on a long stretch of British and world history.

Susan's book list on the reigns of James VI of Scotland and I of England

Susan Doran Why did Susan love this book?

I found this book utterly engrossing. The subject of Sir Thomas Roe’s embassy to India from 1616 to 1619 interested me in part because of my interest in cross-cultural exchanges and partly because of my own visit to some of the places previously trodden by Roe.

I liked the fact that the book had a clear argument, namely that Roe’s previous personal and political experiences influenced his perceptions and conduct in India.

Above all, I found the writing a joy. Despite its undoubted scholarship, the book reads as a novel. Das brings colour to all the descriptions, whether of people, places, or events. I wish I could write like that. 

By Nandini Das,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Courting India as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY BOOK PRIZE A SPECTATOR, WATERSTONES, BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE, PROSPECT AND HISTORY TODAY BOOK OF THE YEAR A profound and ground-breaking new history of one of the most important encounters in the history of colonialism: the British arrival in India in the early seventeenth century. 'A triumph of writing and scholarship. It is hard to imagine anyone ever bettering Das's account of this part of the story' - William Dalrymple, Financial Times 'A fascinating glimpse of the origins of the British Empire . . . drawn in dazzling technicolour' - Spectator 'Beautifully written and masterfully researched,…


Book cover of Faint Promise of Rain

C. P. Lesley Author Of The Golden Lynx

From my list on the 16th century that don’t involve Tudors.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with Russian history as a college sophomore, when I realized the place was like a movie series, all drama and extremes. I completed a doctorate at Stanford in early modern Russia and later published The Domostroi: Rules for Russian Households in the Time of Ivan the Terrible. Because so few people in the West know about the contemporaries of the Tudors and Borgias, I set out to write a set of novels, published under a pseudonym, aimed at a general audience, and set in sixteenth-century Russia. I interview authors for the New Books Network, where I favor well-written books set in unfamiliar times and places.

C. P.'s book list on the 16th century that don’t involve Tudors

C. P. Lesley Why did C. P. love this book?

If Eastern and Central Europe are often ignored in historical fiction in the sixteenth century, that’s even more true of lands east of the Ural Mountains. This gorgeous study of Mughal India in the reigns of Emperor Humayun and his son Akbar charts the story of Adhira, a temple dancer in Rajasthan. Born during one of her homeland’s rare rainstorms, Adhira bears the weight of her father’s expectation that she will carry on the kathak tradition to which he has devoted his life. Through the story of Adhira and her brother Mahendra, Duva—herself a practitioner of kathak—plunges us into the highs and lows of temple life and reveals a deep understanding of the religious dance she portrays.

By Anjali Mitter Duva,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Faint Promise of Rain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for the 2016 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing

It is 1554 in the desert of Rajasthan. On a rare night of rain, a daughter is born to a family of Hindu temple dancers just as India’s new Mughal Emperor Akbar sets his sights on their home, the fortress city of Jaisalmer, and the other Princely States around it.

Fearing a bleak future, Adhira’s father, the temple’s dance master—against his wife and sons’ protests—puts his faith in tradition and in his last child for each to save the other: he insists that Adhira is destined to “marry” the temple’s…


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